If you think incubation happens in your head, you've got another thing coming. Big Vision Empty Wallet founders Dani Faith Leonard and Alex Cirillo have been helping filmmakers incubate their films for the last six years, and they're here to tell you a thing or two about that crucial early period in a film's life.

NFS: Filmmakers think about the "incubation period" of a creative project as the time the idea is brewing in their heads. Is that how you guys see the process? 

Leonard: Many filmmakers see the word “development” and only think of the creative — script development, mood boards, storyboards, shot lists. During both of our programs (Kickstart Diversity Program and the Incubator in Costa Rica), we also encourage filmmakers to work on audience building, sponsorships and partnerships, and marketing and distribution strategy.  To us, the incubation period is everything that happens until you are funded and going into production.

Creators hold their projects too close to the vest and don't elicit the advice of other smart creatives.... Ultimately, those projects suffer.

NFS: How early is too early to get your ideas out there? 

Cirillo: In terms of getting your ideas out to other people, I don't think it's ever too early to bounce ideas off of colleagues and friends whose opinions you value. Very often creators hold their projects too close to the vest and don't elicit the advice of other smart creatives for a variety of reasons, and ultimately those projects suffer creatively. One of the best features of our Kickstart Diversity Program is the community aspect. All of the creators are on an email list together where they can make recommendations, ask for help promoting their projects, share exciting updates, and otherwise communicate with like-minded people who are going through the same experience.  

Farah Goes BangCredit: "Farah Goes Bang"

NFS: Why is the early part of the incubation process important?

Leonard: For any project, whether it's a digital series or feature film, it is of extreme importance to start off with a great script! Once the script is fantastic, it’s crucial to have the time to build your team and think about how your project will reach audiences. When we host our Distribution Lab (twice a year through the Kickstart Diversity Program), the projects that can benefit the most from thinking about distribution are the projects that haven’t shot yet. During the incubation period the script often changes as you add new layers to the project. You also ignite the passions of your team, determining specific expertise, and combat any issues before it’s too late.

Cirillo: The incubation process is key to any creator's success. Especially in filmmaking, there are always unforeseen obstacles and fires that arise, so the more carefully you plan and prepare for all phases of your project, the easier it is to deal with those issues without going over budget or elevating your blood pressure. Part of smart project incubation is building relationships, so we encourage creators to work with our Kickstart Diversity vendor partners early on in their process so they can properly budget for everything they will need, get educated about aspects of production that they may not already be experts in, and establish relationships with companies that are excited about their projects and willing to help them out if they're in a jam.  

If you are trying to assemble the best team, you severely limit yourself and your project if you only work with people who have the same background and life experience as you. 

NFS: What tips do you have for filmmakers during the early ideas part of the creative process?

Leonard: It’s so important during development to put together a great team to bring your project to the world.  This is where diversity comes in to play.  Diversity in regards to race, gender, or sexual orientation leads to diversity that we cannot see, but is equally as important: diversity of thought. If you are trying to assemble the best team, you severely limit yourself and your project if you only work with people who have the same background and life experience as you.  Your project’s success begins and ends with the team that you assemble, and the best use of your time during this early part of the creative process is to surround yourself with a diverse team who you are dying to work with creatively, who you want to spend long hours with, drink beers with, cry with, and celebrate with.  And if you look around and all of the people you choose are exactly like you, you should question why you are so afraid to step out of your comfort zone.

Cirillo: Think about who is going to want to watch the project you're creating. I don't mean to say that you should change what you're writing or creating to pander to a specific audience, but you need to be clear on who your audience is. We all want to be able to make a living as creators, and that requires having a loyal and engaged audience that will follow you throughout your career and support your future projects in addition to your current project. Knowing how large your audience is (or can be), where that audience consumes content, and how much they're willing to pay for it will help you make smart creative decisions along the way.


Big Vision Empty Wallet announced 8 feature films and 6 series today that will receive an incentive package through their Kickstart Diversity program.

Do you want support for that crucial early period of your film? Submissions are open for the next round of the BVEW Kickstart Diversity Program Launched, which features an incentive package that supports underrepresented creators.  he program supports films, pilots, web series, and multi-platform projects with diverse teams.  Selected projects receive significant discounts from vendors and service providers nationwide to create savings in all stages of production, in addition to access to an exclusive distribution lab.

See the new selected projects announced today HERE and submit your work HERE.

Header image from "Unearth”, credit to Lyons Den Productions